I believe this is the best time to grow. Grow in our career. Grow in our business. Grow in life. There are more opportunities during times of disruption than ever – that’s because everything is undergoing massive competition and chaos. All of us – from small business owners to students to working stiffs to corporate career climbers – we are all seeking ways to grow in an ocean of change and complexity.
But too often we seek growth from our boss, the economy, certain market conditions or something outside to change. But what I have realized over my life are these 7 fundamental truths:
1. Growth Comes From Within.
Whatever you want to do – whatever you wish to have – whoever you wish to become starts from the inside.
No one will tap you on your shoulder and say, “Here’s a lot more money for this really great job”. That will not happen. If you want to know how to grow – stop looking to the outside and start looking at yourself. Brick by brick, you have to build that business. Breath by breath, you have to build that life. Job by job, you have to build that career, one action at a time.
Here’s why: We have no control of the external world. We can’t control our boss, our colleagues, our customers or business partners. We have no control over them or the market conditions which will allow us to have a prosperous business. But we do have control over ourselves.
This is under our control: The way we adapt to the change. The ideas we bring forth. The way we handle crisis. Our ability to speak to people about fundraising for our startup or business. How we pitch a customer. Our creativity, innovation, drive, resilience, learning and attitude – all of these things are determined not by other people or the economy but the ingenuity of our own mind.
If you really want to know how to grow in times of change, look in the mirror.
Growth comes from you. From inside you.
Born in poverty in India, all I wanted to do when I came to the U.S. as a kid was to get a chance at the American dream. To get a job, make money to help my family survive. After a college education, I started my career at the bottom – as a sales rep for a large company with a sales territory in New York City. By deep learning and applying my passion and perseverance, I became a top sales person.
But I felt I was not growing. After a few years, I was not learning. Something was missing. There was something more for me to do. I wanted to grow and blamed ‘the system’ for not promoting me fast enough.
I took to pity myself foolishly. What could I offer as an immigrant kid who mopped floors and served ice cream cones at the Dairy Queen? I didn’t have the perfect summer internship in NYC nor the caddy job at those golf clubs like the kids of the executives in corporate America.
But as I started reading more biographies of great people at the public library, I realized that I was wasting my energy with false accusations. Instead of finding blame on the corporate machine or taking pity, I looked in the mirror and realized that it was up to me to find new opportunities because they never seem to find me.
So I took it upon myself to figure out how to grow. I signed up to do a part time MBA. I went into deep learning mode. Made a choice. With total commitment I set out on a path to make myself more valuable and earn a job working in international business in the corporate office. Hook or crook, I was going to make it. And I did. That first foray out of the field and into the corporate fire was my stepping stone into a long and successful career in a large company (which by the way ended by choice recently). I discovered how to grow in times of change: By changing myself.
Ever since those early days of my career, I put less weight on the fairness of the world to find me opportunities and relied much more heavily upon the effort of my hands, mind and heart to lift me forward through times of change putting me in the sweet spot of chance and opportunity.
Want to know how to grow in times of change? How do you change yourself? Here’s more:
2. How do you define growth?
Is it money? Do you want more time? A deeper quest for meaning? What is it? Tell me…what is it? What is the thing you really want? Do you want to grow your bank account? Do you want to find a higher quality relationship? An important job with lots of people reporting to you? Are you interested in growing yourself? Do you want a better job or just a different one? How do you measure your growth?
We often ignore this deep question and often resort to the same old answer – yes, I want more money, better house, better car, better job, better life.
But that isn’t good enough. We have to push deeper to better understand ourselves.
I left my job in corporate America to join a startup because I too asked the question: how do I grow? And discovered that for me it was to do something so radically different than what I was doing. I also wanted growth by creative freedom, where my work really made a difference.
Ask yourself: How do I define growth? What do I really want? Is it money? Meaning? Don’t cop out of saying yes to everything. Be fair by being clear. You will only figure out how to grow by knowing what growth means.
3. Growth is not linear
You don’t learn to drive a car on a straight road with no turns, curves, traffic or surprises. Sailors don’t learn to sail in calm oceans. Successful careers aren’t built doing the same thing for decades. You must disrupt yourself if you are not growing in your job. Get out if you are not learning.
Life is never linear. I started as a kid who ran a Dairy Queen, worked at one of the biggest companies in the world having traveled to over 30 countries and find myself today a writer, speaker and working on a disruptive innovation. I never, ever expected. Look back at your own life and career. You didn’t get here in a straight line. There is no ladder that goes straight up. It goes sideways – which is just great. It really is. Sideways is not a bad thing. So take a job that enhances the richness of your abilities. Take a job that pays less and allows you to see more. Take on a client who is interesting. Join a startup that pays less. Take a trip somewhere you’ve never been. Embrace spontaneity. Do something unique!
Ask yourself: What are the ways I can grow that I hadn’t even considered before? What will drastically increase the breadth and depth of my life experience? Non-linear paths often give us the most powerful learnings that propel us to greatness.
4. Growth is a result of action
Law of the universe: action always has a reaction.
We cannot grow by doing the same old same old. We must do something different if we’re to grow in times of change. Customers will rarely call you to offer a plate full of money. Finding peace and calm in your mind will not appear out of thin air.
I was introduced to yoga and meditation as a child in India. But it never stuck. Only after 30+ years in the U.S. as an adult I took the initiative and took a week long course on meditation. No, a course is not necessary for learning to meditate but I wanted to do it that way. If I hadn’t picked up the phone and dialed the TM center, I would not have learned and benefited from it. From getting my first job to winning my first book deal, action got me consequence. It got me rejection, which I learned from and eventually got me success.
Ask yourself: What specific tasks and actions will I take today to grow? Which tasks will I focus my energy on today?
5. Growth comes from learning how to handle problems
Life has a way of kicking us to the curb. No matter what your pay grade or position, you will be kicked, shoved or fall to the curb at some point in your life. From either family, friends, competitors, colleagues or customers. That’s life. Acceptance of the fact that it isn’t about you, personally and finding the strength to move forward will yield you more growth than ever.
I helped my wife build her small business as an eye doctor. From zero patients to thousands today. Somewhere early, we were hit with a major problem. For months we thought, “why us?”, then we realized the better question to ask is, “how do we move forward and fix this, no matter what?”. And while it took us a while to do it, we did face the problem and learned to shift by getting innovative and raising our standards.
Handling a problem forces you to think more deeply and resourcefully and do things that which often makes us uncomfortable, which is the stepping stone to growth.
Facing up to problems is what CEOs, small business owners and leaders of organizations do every single day. Growth comes from learning to handle hard things. Getting used to having difficult conversations, making tough choices and facing tough situations will help us grow in times of change.
Ask yourself: What problem am I ignoring that I really ought to own up to? How can I use my creativity to tackle the problem?
6. Growth comes from contribution
The way to growth is about giving something of value to someone else. Whether you’re transferring value of your creativity, your mind, your resources or your effort, if we wish to grow in times of change, we have to offer something useful to the people around us that is needed.
The best products and services fill a need and often emerge from a deep mission and desire to give. Find a way to contribute to your team at work, in the community you live or the readers of your blog around the world. Use your voice, your experience and lessons to make someone’s life better.
I understood the full meaning of how to grow in times of change as I started speaking in a professional manner about the learnings on embracing change from my book. I was able to grow as a writer and a speaker because the purpose by which I was guided was of contribution. My intention was to help improve someone else’s life, through the documenting the stories in my life. Very simple. That focus on giving, offering and contributing is what continues to drive my writing and speaking.
Ask yourself: What value am I creating today? Who am I serving today? What can I contribute to make just one person’s life better? Finding just one thing will help you grow in your job, your work, your business and your life.
7. Growth comes by doing what you do not want to do – something hard
The mind is a muscle and requires tension and resistance to grow. I hate exercising. But I force myself to do it. Writing a book over 5 years, toiling away before 5am and after putting the kids to bed at 9pm, was brutal. I forced myself to write.
Making yourself to do things you don’t want to do is one of the most important factors of growth called discipline. Mind over body. Sure I enjoy Netflix series just like anyone but I know how addicting they can be. I understand the beautiful distractions that exist in life. If you want to grow in times of change, you must force yourself to do the uncomfortable tasks, choices and actions.
Ask yourself: What am I avoiding? What will I do today to tackle that which I hate to do?
Let me wrap up.